This is the victory not only of a Trump personality cult, as it has been described, but also of an ideology, one closer to Putinism than Reaganism.
.. Back then, you may recall, some of the “crazies” — such as national security adviser Michael Flynn — had left the White House, and supposed pragmatists had taken charge: H.R. McMaster for national security, Gary Cohn for economics, Jared and Ivanka for — well, for general reasonableness.
.. There was talk of working with Democrats on infrastructure. Trump wanted to help the “dreamers,” those blameless young immigrants brought to this country as children. It seemed that existing international agreements — NATO, the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Paris climate accord — might be preserved, with some face-saving adjustments. Trump was still the politician who had spoken tolerantly on LGBT issues.
.. The White House defines itself and prepares to motivate its voters by the “enemies” it constantly creates, refines and rediscovers, including African American athletes, the press (“Our Country’s biggest enemy,” in a recent Trump tweet), Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (“very dishonest & weak”), and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III (directing a “Witch Hunt, led by 13 very Angry and Conflicted Democrats”). Also: Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Democratic leaders in the Senate and House, former FBI director James B. Comey, his own attorney general, his deputy attorney general . . . The list will never end.
.. But Bannonism is not just a snarling attitude. It encompasses a contempt for democracy and a respect for authoritarianism. When Trump refused to sign a statement of solidarity with the world’s other six leading industrial democracies and then proceeded to slather praise on North Korea’s dictator (“a tough guy . . . a very smart guy”), this was not just a sign of personal pique or favoritism: The U.S. president raised questions in the minds of other leaders about whether the concept of the West itself can survive his presidency.
.. It encompasses an “America First,” for-me-to-win-you-have-to-lose philosophy
.. It encompasses a contempt for immigrants, for outsiders of any kind. Certainly it is possible to support lower levels of immigration without being a racist. But to countenance the deliberate policy of tearing away small children from their parents that we are seeing today on the U.S.- Mexico border is consistent only with a worldview that deems Mexicans and Salvadorans somehow less human, less worthy, than white Americans.
..it’s no coincidence that Trump, who boasted about being the first Republican to say LGBTQ in his convention acceptance speech in 2016, has, as The Post’s James Hohmann noted last week, tried to ban transgender people from the military, removed protections for transgender inmates, employees and students, failed to acknowledge Pride Month and disbanded the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. As in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, this revival of bigotry dovetails with an effort to woo the conservative Christian establishment.
.. Finally, Bannonism encompasses contempt for the government itself.
.. his constant disparagement of the Justice Department and the FBI; his at times insultingly unsuitable appointments (such as his personal physician to head the mammoth Department of Veterans Affairs); and his generally cavalier attitude toward staffing. Even today, 17 months into his first term, fewer than half of the 667 key positions tracked by The Post in collaboration with the Partnership for Public Service are filled, and for almost 200 there are no nominees.
.. But another answer came from Trump himself, who said after Bannon’s firing: “Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency. . . . Steve was a staffer.”
Even discounting for Trump’s normal petulance and self-aggrandizement, there may have been an element of truth in what he said. The anti-democratic, protectionist, anti-immigrant, pro-authoritarian administration that has now taken shape, in other words, is not only Bannonism. It is raw and unvarnished Trumpism, too.
2016 is the Flight 93 election: charge the cockpit or you die. You may die anyway. You—or the leader of your party—may make it into the cockpit and not know how to fly or land the plane. There are no guarantees.
Except one: if you don’t try, death is certain. To compound the metaphor: a Hillary Clinton presidency is Russian Roulette with a semi-auto. With Trump, at least you can spin the cylinder and take your chances.
.. To ordinary conservative ears, this sounds histrionic. The stakes can’t be that high because they are never that high—except perhaps in the pages of Gibbon. Conservative intellectuals will insist that there has been no “end of history” and that all human outcomes are still possible. They will even—as Charles Kesler does—admit that America is in “crisis.” But how great is the crisis?
.. “even if [Trump] had chosen his policies at random, they would be sounder than Hillary’s”—is unwarrantedly ungenerous. The truth is that Trump articulated, if incompletely and inconsistently, the right stances on the right issues—
- trade, and
—right from the beginning.
.. the unwillingness even to entertain the possibility that America and the West are on a trajectory toward something very bad.
.. conservatives routinely present a litany of ills plaguing the body politic. Illegitimacy. Crime. Massive, expensive, intrusive, out-of-control government. Politically correct McCarthyism. Ever-higher taxes and ever-deteriorating services and infrastructure. Inability to win wars against tribal, sub-Third-World foes. A disastrously awful educational system that churns out kids who don’t know anything and, at the primary and secondary levels, can’t (or won’t) discipline disruptive punks, and at the higher levels saddles students with six figure debts for the privilege.
.. Conservatives spend at least several hundred million dollars a year on think-tanks, magazines, conferences, fellowships, and such, complaining about this, that, the other, and everything. And yet these same conservatives are, at root, keepers of the status quo.
.. Many of them are even good ideas. But are any of them truly fundamental? Do they get to the heart of our problems?
.. If conservatives are right about the importance of virtue, morality, religious faith, stability, character and so on in the individual; if they are right about sexual morality or what came to be termed “family values”; if they are right about the importance of education to inculcate good character and to teach the fundamentals that have defined knowledge in the West for millennia; if they are right about societal norms and public order; if they are right about the centrality of initiative, enterprise, industry, and thrift to a sound economy and a healthy society; if they are right about the soul-sapping effects of paternalistic Big Government and its cannibalization of civil society and religious institutions; if they are right about the necessity of a strong defense and prudent statesmanship in the international sphere—if they are right about the importance of all this to national health and even survival, then they must believe—mustn’t they?—that we are headed off a cliff.
.. But it’s quite obvious that conservatives don’t believe any such thing, that they feel no such sense of urgency, of an immediate necessity to change course and avoid the cliff.
.. But how are they going to save, or even meaningfully improve, the America that Continetti describes? What can they do against a tidal wave of dysfunction, immorality, and corruption? “Civic renewal” would do a lot of course, but that’s like saying health will save a cancer patient. A step has been skipped in there somewhere. How are we going to achieve “civic renewal”? Wishing for a tautology to enact itself is not a strategy.
.. Continetti trips over a more promising approach when he writes of “stress[ing] the ‘national interest abroad and national solidarity at home’ through foreign-policy retrenchment, ‘support to workers buffeted by globalization,’ and setting ‘tax rates and immigration levels’ to foster social cohesion.” That sounds a lot like Trumpism.
.. acknowledgment that the crisis is, indeed, pretty dire.
.. our liberal-left present reality and future direction is incompatible with human nature and must undermine society—and yet also believe that things can go on more or less the way they are going
.. if you genuinely think things can go on with no fundamental change needed, then you have implicitly admitted that conservatism is wrong. Wrong philosophically, wrong on human nature, wrong on the nature of politics, and wrong in its policy prescriptions. Because, first, few of those prescriptions are in force today. Second, of the ones that are, the left is busy undoing them, often with conservative assistance. And, third, the whole trend of the West is ever-leftward, ever further away from what we all understand as conservatism.
.. They will say, in words reminiscent of dorm-room Marxism—but our proposals have not been tried!
.. The tsunami of leftism that still engulfs our every—literal and figurative—shore has receded not a bit but indeed has grown. All your (our) victories are short-lived.
.. The whole enterprise of Conservatism, Inc., reeks of failure.
.. One of the Journal of American Greatness’s deeper arguments was that only in a corrupt republic, in corrupt times, could a Trump rise. It is therefore puzzling that those most horrified by Trump are the least willing to consider the possibility that the republic is dying.
.. It will be coupled with a level of vindictive persecution against resistance and dissent hitherto seen in the supposedly liberal West only in the most “advanced” Scandinavian countries and the most leftist corners of Germany and England. We see this already in the censorship practiced by the Davoisie’s social media enablers; in the shameless propaganda tidal wave of the mainstream media; and in the personal destruction campaigns—operated through the former and aided by the latter—of the Social Justice Warriors. We see it in Obama’s flagrant use of the IRS to torment political opponents, the gaslighting denial by the media, and the collective shrug by everyone else.
.. For two generations at least, the Left has been calling everyone to their right Nazis.
.. This trend has accelerated exponentially in the last few years, helped along by some on the Right who really do seem to merit—and even relish—the label.
.. the deck is stacked overwhelmingly against us. I will mention but three ways. First, the opinion-making elements—the universities and the media above all—are wholly corrupt and wholly opposed to everything we want, and increasingly even to our existence. (What else are the wars on “cis-genderism”—formerly known as “nature”—and on the supposed “white privilege” of broke hillbillies really about?)
.. Our “leaders” and “dissenters” bend over backward to play by the self-sabotaging rules the Left sets for them.
.. Third and most important, the ceaseless importation of Third World foreigners with no tradition of, taste for, or experience in liberty means that the electorate grows more left, more Democratic, less Republican, less republican, and less traditionally American with every cycle.
.. consider this. Trump is the most liberal Republican nominee since Thomas Dewey. He departs from conservative orthodoxy in so many ways that National Review still hasn’t stopped counting.
.. On trade, globalization, and war, Trump is to the left (conventionally understood) not only of his own party, but of his Democratic opponent.
.. there’s that other issue. The sacredness of mass immigration is the mystic chord that unites America’s ruling and intellectual classes.
.. many of them, also believe the academic-intellectual lie that America’s inherently racist and evil nature can be expiated only through ever greater “diversity.”
.. The junta of course craves cheaper and more docile labor. It also seeks to legitimize, and deflect unwanted attention from, its wealth and power by pretending that its open borders stance is a form of noblesse oblige.
.. The Republicans and the “conservatives”? Both of course desperately want absolution from the charge of “racism.”
.. Do they honestly believe that the right enterprise zone or charter school policy will arouse 50.01% of our newer voters to finally reveal their “natural conservatism” at the ballot box? It hasn’t happened anywhere yet and shows no signs that it ever will.
.. This is the mark of a party, a society, a country, a people, a civilization that wants to die.
.. I want to live. I want my party to live. I want my country to live. I want my people to live. I want to end the insanity.
.. only Trump-the-alleged-buffoon not merely saw all three and their essential connectivity, but was able to win on them.
.. The alleged buffoon is thus more prudent—more practically wise—than all of our wise-and-good who so bitterly oppose him. This should embarrass them. That their failures instead embolden them is only further proof of their foolishness and hubris.
.. When America possessed a vast, empty continent and explosively growing industry, high immigration was arguably good policy.
.. It hasn’t made sense since World War I. Free trade was unquestionably a great boon to the American worker in the decades after World War II. We long ago passed the point of diminishing returns.
.. The Gulf War of 1991 was a strategic victory for American interests. No conflict since then has been.
.. for most of the other #NeverTrumpers, is it just a coincidence that they also happen to favor Invade the World, Invite the World?
.. Trumpism, broadly defined as
- secure borders,
- economic nationalism, and
- America-first foreign policy.
.. We Americans have chosen, in our foolishness, to disunite the country through stupid immigration, economic, and foreign policies. The level of unity America enjoyed before the bipartisan junta took over can never be restored.
.. No more importing poverty, crime, and alien cultures.
.. simply building a wall and enforcing immigration law will help enormously, by cutting off the flood of newcomers that perpetuates ethnic separatism and by incentivizing the English language and American norms in the workplace.
.. These policies will have the added benefit of aligning the economic interests of, and (we may hope) fostering solidarity among, the working, lower middle, and middle classes of all races and ethnicities.
.. Who cares if productivity numbers tick down, or if our already somnambulant GDP sinks a bit further into its pillow? Nearly all the gains of the last 20 years have accrued to the junta anyway. It would, at this point, be better for the nation to divide up more equitably a slightly smaller pie than to add one extra slice
.. ? If you recognize the threat she poses, but somehow can’t stomach him, have you thought about the longer term? The possibilities would seem to be: Caesarism, secession/crack-up, collapse, or managerial Davoisie liberalism as far as the eye can see … which, since nothing human lasts forever, at some point will give way to one of the other three.
Many people regretted that the Clinton Administration failed to seize the moment at the end of the Cold War to create a more just international order that would be based on the rules of law, would not be dichotomic or even Manichean, one with its origin in the Cold War, and one that would include Russia rather than leave it out in the cold.
Trump is unlikely to create a new structure, but he can break parts of the old one. That would be quite ironic, for Trump has always carefully guarded his reputation as a (real estate) builder – not a demolition company.
In short, it doesn’t seem as if he has any new “Trump Tower” in mind for a different Western architecture. If that comes to pass, he might usher in a post-Cold War era, the contours of which no one can as of yet properly imagine. Trump would thus close the book on 1945.
Trump a builder?
Finally, if one wanted to be really imaginative and/or optimistic Trump may have one possible ace up his sleeve. The Clinton administration failed to create a more inclusive international order at the end of the Cold War, especially in relation to Russia.
Trump seems inclined to change at least that particular feature. To what extent a détente with Moscow — if it indeed happens, given Trump’s unpredictability — means a qualitative change in global politics remains to be seen.
They were Western-educated Francophones who read deeply in the European canon, who believed in the “miracle of Greek civilization,” who drew on Plato and Virgil and Pascal and Goethe. At the same time, they argued for their own race’s civilizational genius, for a negritudethat turned a derogatory label into a celebration of African cultural distinctiveness.
.. And finally they believed that part of the West’s tradition, the universalist ideals they associated with French republicanism and Marxism, could be used to create a political canopy — a transnational union — beneath which humanity could be (to quote Césaire) “more than ever united and diverse, multiple and harmonious.”
This vision was rejected by both the colonized and the colonizers. But in certain ways it was revived by global elites after the Cold War’s end, with neoliberalism substituted for Marxism, and a different set of transnational projects — the European Union, the Pax Americana — taking the place of the pan-ethnic, multicultural French Union envisioned by Césaire and Senghor.
.. it is hard enough to for a political union to reconcile the different branches of the West — German and Mediterranean, French and Anglo-Saxon. It becomes harder when that same union is trying to manage a society so multicultural — as European nations under the pressure of mass migration may become — as to lack religious or linguistic or historical common ground. And it becomes harder still when your ruling elite’s cosmopolitanism is essentially superficial, more “eating ethnic food and cheering for Obama” than “celebrating negritude while reading Goethe.”
.. Today’s Western nationalists argue, also plausibly, that many European distinctives are unlikely to survive if nation-states are weak, mass immigration constant, Christianity and Judaism replaced by indifferentism and Islam, and young elites educated as global citizens without knowing their own home.
This nationalist argument comes in racist forms, but it need not be the white nationalism that Trump’s liberal critics read into his speech. It can just be a species of conservatism, which prefers to conduct cultural exchange carefully and forge new societies slowly, lest stability suffer, memory fail and important things be lost.